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Andrew W.K., I Get Wet (Mercury)

A friend of mine used to ask his girlfriend to go into the local record shop in his place whenever he wanted to pick up a guilty pleasure—say, a new Rancid CD—and he was afraid of being recognized by his friends who worked there. If he tries to recruit her to pick up Andrew W.K.'s CD, she'll probably try to send someone else in her place.

The cover is designed to raise an eyebrow: a head shot of Andrew, long locks hanging in his face, bleeding copiously from his nose. Turn it over and there's another photo of the man, arms crossed and glowering, giving the impression that he spent his formative years in front of a mirror doing Danzig impersonations. Open it up for more: a photo of Andrew's band in the customary bad-ass poses, although the mood is somewhat offset by the fact that they're standing around in a suburban kitchen. Then there's the song titles: "It's Time To Party," "Party Hard," "Take It Off," "Party Til You Puke," "Don't Stop Living In The Red," and "Fun Night" let you know that, at the very least, you'll be spared the post-Nirvana watered-down angst of bands like Staind. If the total effect is calculated to make you think "dumb metal," you're basically correct. But the packaging gives no clue as to just how over the top the music is. Think of the bombast of early Kiss crossed with the pure pop of the Ramones, double the tempos, and then blow it up to the most outscale proportions possible. The songs are simple; they're the type of riffs that you brought to your eighth-grade band saying, "Hey guys, check out this song I just wrote!" Andrew's thoroughly multi-tracked vocals are hoarsely shouted (although not as rough as Lemmy's, for example). There's no attempt at clever wordplay or flowery metaphor: the chorus for "I Love NYC" is simply "I love New York City/Oh yeah, New York City." What makes it all work so well is the lengths to which this approach is taken. Doing successful moronic party rock in this day and age takes massive cojones and the urge to top all antecedents, and Andrew W.K. appears up to the task. The key is the production; everything on this album is pushed up as far as it will go, while at the same time boiling it down to its essence (when was the last time you heard a quote-unquote metal album without a single guitar solo?). Keyboards are shunned by most hard rock bands these days as a sign of wimpiness, but not by Andrew; they're merely one more instrument he can use to beef up his wall of sound. Listen to the title track: it's as if all the members of the Go-Gos morphed into coke-snorting Incredible Hulks.

The line Andrew walks between exhilarating party rock and overblown cheese is a fine one; "Got To Do It," on which the keyboard-dominant mix induces uncomfortable flashbacks of bands like Survivor and Europe, demonstrate the pitfalls of letting the monolithic approach slip. But that's the only misstep on the record. If there was one knowing wink to reassure too-cool-for-school hipsters that he knows better, it would undercut the whole deal. I'm thankful that there's not. Sure, this is a goofy album, but it's irresistable as all hell. Quit worrying if that smile on your face means that you're enjoying something you shouldn't.

- James Lindbloom